KINSHASA, October 31-Officials in Kinshasa have revealed the ring used for “The Rumble in the Jungle” has been stolen as boxing fans Thursday marked 40 years since one of the most famous and brutal bouts in the sport’s history.
As the sporting world remembers Muhammad Ali’s epic showdown with George Foreman the search is on for the ring which the two boxers climbed into at dawn on October 30, 1974.
The ring “was stolen a few years ago,” Barthelemy Bosongo, manager of the Tata Raphael stadium which staged the fight, told AFP.
“We don’t know where it’s gone, but it’s no longer in Kinshasa,” he added. “We’re in the process of setting up a judicial investigation.”
A leading sports official in the Democratic Republic of Congo who wished to remain anonymous believes the bulky piece of sporting memorabilia “is in South Africa”.
According to Bosongo, “there are no signs left now of the fight, apart from the two dressing rooms” which Ali and Foreman used to change before stepping out for the fight, and into boxing folklore.
He added: “I would have liked for the stadium to become a place of history, where you’d find the dressing rooms, photos, gloves…but there’s nothing to remind you of the fight.”
It may be making headlines around the world but Thursday’s 40th anniversary was passing off virtually unobserved in Kinshasa itself.
At the Tata Raphael stadium it was just like any other day.
Youngsters were knocking a ball around outside while inside Yvonne, 47, when asked about the importance of the day, replied: “What happened 40 years ago?
“1974……..was it the fight between Ali and Foreman?”
“I know the year of the bout, but not the day itself,” she admitted.
Pierre, 64, remembers as a student having to watch the bout on television as he couldn’t afford a ringside seat.
“We’ve forgotten about the fight, the government should have mande an announcement about it,” he said.
“It was after all the fight of the century, which we staged here…”
“The Rumble in the Jungle” anniversary barely got a mention in the local press.
And Ali’s famous eighth round KO was similarly being ignored out on the streets of the capital, aside from a handful of posters advertising a low-key national competition to mark the occasion on Friday.
The stadium itself looks as though it has lost a few rounds against Ali in the intervening years.
The terraces, which were packed with 100,000 people on the night, are falling apart. Water leaks into the gyms where Ali and Foreman trained.
Bosongo revealed that a long awaited makeover was on the cards.
“The government’s ordered the stadium, including the dressing rooms, to be renovated by a Chinese company.”